Dennis Hill gives abrief summary of the battle to save the last Paddle and Rymer weir on the Thames.
Back in 2010, the EA proposed to replace the Paddle and Rymer weir, which has been manned by professional lock staff since 1896, with motorised gates. The Agency was worried that their lock-keepers risked straining themselves to remove the paddles that allow water through the weir, and it had tests carried out to establish whether their staff were being exposed to health risks when using this type of weir. These results suggested that lock-keepers had to lift weights that were too heavy, so they decided to replace the complete weir with a modern concrete structure at a cost of £2.6 million of public money.
A campaign was started by the residents of Northmoor and Appleton to resist the change saying that it would be a waste of money and would remove a much-loved element of local history. Fortunately, the EA had videoed the tests and the recordings were later looked at by an expert, a retired health and safety engineer, Dudley Hoddinott. It turned out that the method used by the lock-keepers to lift the paddles was one that had been handed down over the years and did not involve lifting a heavy weight at all!
In March 2012, the Agency decided to postpone the plan to replace the weir indefinitely while further discussions were held with local residents and councils. To the best of my knowledge this is the situation at the moment. The original wooden paddles have now been replaced with lighter, fibreglass ones. I am told that the Paddle and Rymer weirs offer much finer control and that those who regularly use Paddle and Rymer prefer them to modern, three bucket/gate weirs. Northmoor weir is one of the very few examples, if not the very last, of what was also called a ‘flash lock’ – used prior to the introduction of the ‘pound lock’, so familiar to us all.